Your puppy starts off as an adorable ball of fluff, but then you may witness what is known as "the puppy uglies," a developmental stage during which your furry friend will appear a little scraggly-- but in a cute way. Fortunately, this phase is normal and quite short-lived, and in no time your "ugly duckling" should bloom into a wonderful representative of his breed.
Puppies aren't born in a birthday suit. Indeed, pups are blessed from birth with a heavenly smooth layer of sometimes woolly-like fur composed by individual hairs. Just like the hair in human infants, puppy fur is often softer, fluffier and shorter compared to the coarser, longer and occasionally darker, coat found in adult specimens. The goal of this fuzzy hair is not exclusively meant for making pups adorable, but to also help the pups regulate their body temperature while protecting their skin from the elements.
Enjoy that cute puppy fur as long as it lasts; most puppies will officially start losing it when they're between 4 to 8 months of age. This time frame tends to vary from dog to dog as different breeds have different rates of coat development. Consider that factors such as genetic predisposition, hormones, outdoor and indoor temperatures, daylight hours and diet may play a role in the process of your pup's coat development.
The stage during which your puppy will put on adult fur may or may not be noticeable. In double-coated, furry breeds such as Pomeranians, the puppy uglies may be quite evident often leaving you wondering if some evil elf stopped by overnight just to remove sections of your pup's beautiful baby coat. The fur loss may also occur partially in strange areas like only on the legs or just around the eyes making your pooch appear odd for some time. In certain breeds substantial color changes indicate the shift to an adult coat. The Dalmatian's trademark spots, for instance, appear as the puppy grows.
The initial fur found on a young puppy consists of just one coat composed by simple hair follicles that hold a single hair. The secondary hairs then start emerging around the age of 12 weeks. In the case of a double-coated pup, he'll technically end up with two coats of fur: the undercoat and the overcoat. Luckily, the adult coat will be fully complete by the time the puppy has reached the age of 10 to 14 months.
You may feel hesitant in bathing and grooming your pup in fear that these procedures will increase the rate of hair loss. Yet, that puppy fur must come out so your puppy can develop his adult coat and stay clean. Make sure you are careful when you're brushing over those spots with little or no hair; these areas can be quite sensitive. Keep an eye for any sores and reddened areas. Report them to your veterinarian as needed.
In certain circumstances, a medical condition may be confused with a case of "puppy uglies." It's good to keep in mind that fur loss may also take place in puppies affected by food or environmental allergies, thyroid problems and a host of other medical problems. If your puppy is substantially losing fur and things don't seem right, or if your puppy is shedding but he's not within the expected "puppy uglies" timeframe, don't hesitate to see your vet.
Adrienne Farricelli has been writing for magazines, books and online publications since 2005. She specializes in canine topics, previously working for the American Animal Hospital Association and receiving certification from the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers. Her articles have appeared in "USA Today," "The APDT Chronicle of the Dog" and "Every Dog Magazine." She also contributed a chapter in the book " Puppy Socialization - An Insider's Guide to Dog Behavioral Fitness" by Caryl Wolff.